Monday, April 13, 2015

ALERT! Fracking Bills in House and Senate Committees Tuesday - Calls Needed!

The House State Affairs Committee will hear both fracking bills Tuesday morning.   The bills are HB 1205 and HB 1209, both by Rep. Rodrigues.  This is the last committee for them and they’ll go to the House floor next.    Please CALL the members of the committee and urge them to vote NO on these bills. 

In the Senate, General Government Appropriations will hear SB 1468 by Sen. Richter. This bill is the regulation and permitting companion to HB 1205.  If it passes the committee, both Senate bills will have only one more committee to go before they go to the floor.

Contact information and talking points are below.

House bills to be heard Tuesday morning
CS/CS/HB 1205    Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources                
CS/CS/HB 1209    Pub. Rec./High-Pressure Well Stimulation Chemical Disclosure Registry      

Senate bill to be heard Tuesday afternoon
S 1468 Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources

State Affairs 2015 (for 1205 and 1209)
Rep. Matt Caldwell, Chair        850-717-5079
Rep. Neil Combee, V. Chair     850-717-5039
Rep. Ben Albritton                      850-717-5056
Rep. Michael Bileca                    850-717-5115
Rep. John Cortes                         850-717-5043
Rep. Janet Cruz                            850-717-5062
Rep. Travis Cummings               850-717-5018
Rep. Brad Drake                           850-717-5005
Rep. Matt Gaetz                          850-717-5004
Rep. Shawn Harrison                 850-717-5063
Rep. Mike La Rosa                       850-717-5042
Rep. Amanda Murphy               850-717-5036
Rep. Ray Pilon                               850-717-5072
Rep. Jake Raburn                        850-717-5057
Rep. Irving Slosberg                   850-717-5091
Rep. Dwayne  Taylor                  850-717-5026
Rep. John  Wood                         850-717-5041
Rep. Clovis Watson                     850-717-5020

General Government Appropriations Subcommittee 2015
Sen. Alan Hays, Chair            850-487-5011
Sen. Oscar Braynon, V. Ch.   850-487-5036
Sen. Thad Altman                  850-487-5016
Sen. Charles Dean                 850-487-5005
Sen. Tom Lee                        850-487-5024
Sen. Gwen Margolis              850-487-5035
Sen. Wilton Simpson             850-487-5018,,,,,,,

HB 1209 - Fracking public records exemption bill  (in House State Affairs)

The immediate issue in HB 1209 is that it deprives citizens of the information about toxic chemicals that may affect their water supply. They have a right and a need to protect themselves and their families from threats to their health and safety.  This bill deprives them of that ability by means of a legal blindfold that makes it impossible to know about threats until it’s too late.  It misuses the law to subvert the public interest.

The bill also:
  • Sets a low bar to hide the use of toxic chemicals behind the veil of “proprietary business information” (an even broader term than trade secrets)
  • Even DEP won’t know what chemicals are used until up to 60 days after the fracking takes place.
  • A citizen who wants to find out what chemicals may be threatening his or her family will have to wait while the well operator goes to court to confirm the toxic chemicals really are proprietary business information… and the judge will have to agree that they are because the definition is written into the bill.
  • First responders and medical personnel are excluded from access to the information even when it means they won’t be able to protect themselves or help their patients.

The underlying theory of the bill is that the business of fracking is more important than citizens having access to information about it and whether DEP is doing its job of protecting them or exposing them to unnecessary risks.



HB 1205 Fracking permitting/regulation bill (in House State Affairs)

  • HB 1205 uses a very narrow definition of “high pressure well stimulation” that exempts the use of toxic chemicals at low pressures from regulation.  The acidization of the Hogan-Collier well would not have fallen under this definition and would be unregulated by this bill.
  • Section 5 of the bill preempts local governments from adopting programs to regulate fracking within their jurisdiction - depriving citizens of the right to self-governance.
  • Section 6 provides laughably low surety payments: $4,000 the first year and $1,500 thereafter, for each well.  But in no event is an applicant to pay more than $30,000 a year, no matter how any wells they have.  If anything goes wrong, it’s the taxpayer who will pick up the tab.
  • The maximum fine for violations is increased from not more than $10,000 to not more than $25,000 (but the fine could be much lower in either case. No minimum amount is set.)
  • What little disclosure is required comes 60 days after the well has been fracked and the damage may already have been done.


SB 1468 Fracking permitting/regulation bill in Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee

  • SB 1468 uses the same narrow definition of high pressure well stimulation that would allow many uses of toxic chemicals to go unregulated.
  • Section 2 of the bill grants a well operator confidentiality about the use of chemicals for an entire year just for the asking.
  • The surety requirement is the same as the one in HB 1205 - laughably low.  Taxpayers will feel the pain if there’s an accident.  The fines are the same too, bumped to not more than $25,000 (but with no minimum amount.)
  • Again, the disclosure is  not required until up to 60 days after the fracking takes place, and
  • Anything that is proprietary business information is exempt from any disclosure requirement.

On balance, these bills cause more problems than they solve:

They do not eliminate risk for Florida citizens - no permitting and regulation scheme can do that. (Deepwater Horizon had permits and was regulated - 11 men died and untold environmental damage was done to the Gulf and Gulf States.

As written, they don’t even cover the activities at the Hogan Collier well that the Dan Hughes Company carried out (Less water was used than the 100,000 gallon requirement in the definition in SB 1468)

They hand the industry a PR victory that allows them to say “Fracking is safe.  DEP regulates the industry and we have a permit!  Not only that; we’re transparent!  We give all the information to DEP - and citizens can go look us up on FracFocus (except for what we choose to claim as ‘proprietary business information’)

Increasing fracking in Florida will create a ‘stranded costs’ argument for staying with fossil fuels and delay transitioning to a clean energy economy. 

Other issues with the fracking bills:

There is no way to be sure of identifying and adequately plugging/recasing/sealing all possible abandoned wells within a sufficient radius of the fracking well and its horizontal branches.  Subterranean natural faults must be taken into consideration as well as man-made conduits.  Still, well casings fail.  All technologies fail eventually in some number of cases.  While the probability of failure may be small, the risk is huge - contaminating the aquifer people use for drinking water would be catastrophic.   

Physicians and first responders have no way of getting information to save the lives of victims in case of an accident, or to protect themselves from exposure to toxins.

There are no federal protections from fracking’s impact on drinking water thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempted fracking from regulation of underground injection in the Safe Drinking Water Act (the Halliburton loophole).  Numerous other exemptions for fracking have been adopted at the federal level: the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; the National Environmental Policy Act; and the Toxic Release Inventory of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. 
Fracking uses a lot of water, sometimes millions of gallons each time a well is fracked.   And when the water is returned to the surface it can’t be used for anything else because it has so many contaminants in it.  The only thing to do with it is inject it deep into the ground where (hopefully) it will stay.  In a state facing water shortages in some areas this is not a good use of the water resource.

There are legitimate concerns about fracking:

Volume of water used (up to 13 million gallons per well)

Chemical mixing – spills and transportation accidents

Injection of chemicals – migration to groundwater and mobilization of subsurface materials into aquifer

Flowback and produced water – spills, treatment, leaching, final disposition of pits – and what happens to the 30% of the injected fluids that are not returned to the surface?

Wastewater treatment and waste disposal – contamination of surface and groundwater, insufficient treatment, transportation accidents.

The National Academy of Sciences discovered that homes within 1 kilometer (2/3 mile) were six times more likely to have six times more methane in their drinking water than those farther away.  Ethane levels were 23 times higher.

At least 29 dangerously toxic chemicals are used in 652 products for fracking.  They include carcinogens, hazardous air pollutants, and substances regulated under the Safe Water Drinking Act (except for fracking because of the exemption).